While conceding much of the possession, the home side earned their victory through sheer resilience; Wolves rarely tested Jason Kearton, the Crewe goalkeeper, and, as the game looked to be ebbing towards a stalemate, the promotion hopefuls were forced into making speculative, long-range efforts.
Buoyed by this famous win, Gradi even ventured that one day his young stars might reach the Premiership. "It's a dream," he said, "but not an impossible one." In a more considered moment he praised his team's efforts, particularly those of his defenders. "This result shows what resolute defending can do for you - while I think Wolves were the better team, we deserved a win for sticking at it."
The winner, seven minutes from time, was a result of a Simon Osborn mistake and fine, opportunistic play from Dave Wright. Wright intercepted Osborn's misplaced pass and fed Colin Little who, with ample time and space to select his man, hoisted a deep cross from the left flank to the unmarked Paul Tait, who headed in nonchalantly through the grasp of Michael Oakes for his third league goal in as many games. "It was a costly error which, in the end, cost us the game, but we try to win wherever we play and that's what Simon was aiming to do," Colin Lee, the Wolves manager said.
This attitude coupled with the efforts of Crewe to stick to Gradi's passing principles made for a thoroughly entertaining fixture. Wolves operated with dedicated wide men in Andy Sinton and Darren Bazeley and, against the home side's three-man midfield, created abundant crossing opportunities. With Ade Akinbiyi perceived as the key threat, his strike-partner Michael Branch was granted considerable freedom, but neither managed to evade the shackles of Steve Wright and Steve MacAuley at the heart of Crewe's defence.
Crewe Alexandra (4-3-3): Kearton; Bignot, S Wright, MacAuley, D Wright; Street, Lunt, Sorvel; Little, Cramb (Collins, 72), Tait. Substitutes not used: Ince (gk), Unsworth, Smith, Liddle.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Oakes; Muscat, Pollet, Curle, Naylor; Bazeley, Emblen, Osborn, Sinton; Akinbiyi, Branch. Substitutes not used: Stowell (gk), Robinson, Sedgley, Corica, Simpson.
Referee: R Furnandiz (Doncaster).
n Bradley Allen struck from 30 yards in the 31st minute to give Grimsby the lead at home to West Bromwich last night, but the visitors struck back before the break and Lee Hughes equalised with a well-placed shot in the 42nd minute to earn Albion a 1-1 draw.